More than forty years after the United Nations started celebrating International Women’s Day on the 8th March, Macao Magazine dedicates this issue to celebrate women in Macao and their accomplishments.
There are thousands of stories to tell on women who have helped build this city into a home for all members of the society.
Here is an example of a woman, Sonia Chan, that has taken on the role of “superwoman” in her field and has pursued her dreams and passions.
From politics to sports, business to social work and arts, they share their inspirations and their fight. We hope that these stories will inspire you and make you reflect on how far we’ve come in regards to having a society that treats both men and women equally.
Sonia Chan Hoi Fan is Secretary for Administration and Justice for Macao. As the only female member on the team of cabinet secretaries, some have portrayed Chan as an ambitious “Iron Lady,” but she insists that she simply is on a mission to help build a better Macao. A native of Guangzhou, Chan has been a resident of the Special Administrative Region for nearly three decades. She recently shared her experience as a government official as well as insights into her personal life with Macao Magazine.
Macao Magazine (MM): As a child, what did you dream of being when you grew up?
Sonia Chan (SC): Actually, when I was little, I loved dancing. But growing up in the 60s was a different time. Life wasn’t as exciting. There weren’t as many opportunities as there are now. My family had to focus on working and making a living, so I didn’t have the chance to pursue my dancing dream. But I still love watching performances such as ballet shows, even though I’m not dancing!
MM: Who are your female role models?
SC: I have admired many ‘Iron Ladies’ throughout my career, including former Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former President of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, etc. They are all very capable and successful women in society.
MM: Do you have a mentor?
SC: My primary school teacher inspired and influenced me the most. She was like a loving mother to me. We still keep in touch regularly, decades after we first met. Actually, we just met up not long ago! I am very grateful to have this teacher who is also a motherly figure to me in my life.
MM: How would you like to be remembered for your contribution to Macao?
SC: I hope we (i.e., Chan’s team as well as those of the other secretaries) can work together and show the world Macao’s uniqueness as well as provide a peaceful and harmonic society for our fellow citizens.
MM: What do you think is the most significant barrier to more female leadership?
SC: Working in government, we are all driven by the same goal regardless of our gender – to do our best to support the Chief Executive’s administration in an effort to construct a better Macao. Maybe because I am the only female on the team, the Chief Executive and the other Secretaries are always extra considerate of me. So from my own experience, I think we definitely need to encourage more women to join the ranks of female leadership and let their voices be heard.
MM: What are the best and worst decisions you’ve ever made?
SC: I rarely qualify my life through this lens. I believe we can never do anything perfectly in any phase of life. Although I am an introspective person who tends to ponder what I might have done better or differently in certain situations, I have never really tried to categorise which decision was the best or the worst.
MM: Where do you find your motivation, and do you have a general work or life motto?
SC: I believe that no matter what job is at hand, one always has to be responsible and do one’s best. This is what I always tell myself in all situations. What keeps me motivated every day is faith and a sense of responsibility.
It is also very important to have one’s mindset ready and clear for work every day. It affects your decisions as well as the vibe of the whole team. So I face every day with a positive attitude. Even when facing challenges, I stay calm and objective, and I’m not afraid to ask for opinions and help if I can’t solve a problem alone.
Talking to someone I trust, such as family, friends or colleagues is helpful in seeing the whole picture clearly.
I am very lucky and grateful that I have my family, friends and a great team supporting me.
To be honest, what I can do alone is very limited. For the most part, it’s about gathering intelligence together. What we do in public administration reform or law reform to improve citizens’ livelihood and welfare, it’s always the whole team’s effort. It’s also necessary to remain objective when working towards the greater good of the public.
Even when there is something that I might not personally favor, if it’s agreed upon by the majority [of my team] and considered the best option, I gladly subordinate my opinions to that of the team. When I make a decision at work, I am always thinking on behalf of the welfare of Macao’s citizens and the government, not based on my personal interests. My motto is, “No matter what you do, always make sure you can face your conscience.”
TEXT Elky Siu
ILLUSTRATION Rui Rasquinho
PHOTOS Cheong Kam Ka
(Issue N.39, March 2017)